So what did you think of The War of Jokes and Riddles?
It is a weird as hell Batman comic. And not in the way we’ve grown used to Batman comics being weird over the last several years with the resurgence of time travel and bone monsters and Zur-En-Arrh and sweet dirtbikes. It’s a war comic set in Gotham City, where the ultimate point is that this is all meaningless.
Unsurprisingly, I loved the hell out of it.
In part, I don’t feel I can fully judge it yet: King isn’t even writing for the trade on this book so much as the Ultimate Complete Collection Omnibus Edition, and what comes later is definitely going to contextualize things in here (that’s actually the one real issue I have with this run so far, it’s never until at least halfway through a given arc so far that I feel I have a sense of what it’s ‘about’ in a broader sense). But if the I Am leg of the run was about defining King’s vision of Batman as struggling with trauma through crimefighting and slowly realizing its inadequacy as a coping mechanism, as well as demonstrating by putting him up against an equal opposite why we can still see him as a hero, this next uber-arc with War and his global journey and meeting with Superman seems to be throwing that carefully-constructed self-definition into a larger world outside what he’s defined for himself and seeing how he withstands it, and how he works in response to become something better.
In this case it’s taking his relationship with his villains, the tacit rules that have bound him and the rank-and-file of his rogues gallery since the beginning, and forcing the self-declared soldier to realize how he operates in an actual war once those structures are no longer in place, and his life and world are unwillingly swept up in the dick-measuring contest of a self-deluding narcissist and a bored nihilist. It’s hard not to see this as a particularly personal arc from one-time CIA agent King in that regard, with Batman’s slow emotional decline in the face of mounting casualties and his breaking point when he realizes the true banality underneath it all, and his eventual understanding that making peace and being happy means acknowledging that he can’t define himself by his inevitable human failures. At the same time it’s a story very charged by the history of the characters involved given it’s also about how Joker and Batman’s dynamic was truly forged. The Riddler for all his formidable mind and post-Zero Year cred drove Batman to the one place that disgusts him most just by the sheer revelation of how pathetic and petty and he really is and the scope of what he’s willing to sacrifice in service of sincerely idiotic whims, annihilating all concept of meaning even as he defines his life by it, while the Joker lives at the black hole of utter despair and meaninglessness where Batman realizes what he’s capable of, becoming enamored with his nemesis at last as he sees the chink in his armor that he just won’t be able to help but try and break open himself. In short, it’s a story of how all three are a little more human and weak than we had thought, while keeping what they represent and become over time in play to an extent that keeps me more than okay with how far afield it goes from the normal rules and territory. It remains to be seen how the secret unveiled here could reverberate throughout the run - and whether Batman will conquer or come to terms with the frailty we saw here, or succumb as Swamp Thing did in The Brave and the Mold, an issue that certainly seems in retrospect to have been a prelude to this chunk of King’s Batman in particular - but at this point King’s earned my trust.
(Incidentally, while I initially thought of Kite Man’s ‘origin’ as the one major misstep so far of King’s run I think it works in hindsight, with even the darker additions to his backstory helping him serve as a mirror to Batman, caught up in events larger than himself and desperately trying to find meaning and balance through a completely inadequate coping mechanism.)
Cole always went for a shower in the morning before you woke up, but today he lay there like a board. You laughed at his position, getting up and laying on his back and rubbing the heel of his foot with your feet. He groaned, rolling over and grabbing your hips to keep you still. You now sat on his lap, and as he looked up at you; you blushed. He waggled his eyebrows at you and uttered a saucy;
”Good morning, doll face. How you doin’?” with a horrible New Jersian accent. He smirked, pulling you down for a passionate kiss. You giggled into the kiss, and you both pulled away.
“So, what do you want to do today, my prince?" You said, giving him a wink.
He sat up, giving you a hug when he got settled. ” Anything you want.“ He said, his nose trailing up your neck. You giggled at how ticklish it was, and you poked his face. He laughed, running a hand up your spine, and when you shivered, his face got red because he was laughing so hard. ” I love you, you know that. Right, Y/N?“ He said once he had calmed down. You nodded, kissing his forehead.
"Good morning, beautiful!" Dana said excitedly as you rolled over to face him. You were both entangled in the blankets together in the events from the past couple days, but you needed to be closer. Dana saw you struggling to move closer, so he took a hold of your waist and pulled you on top of him. You giggled, kissing his nose.
"Superman, Oh superman, how can you be so strong?"You sung, laughing in between words. Dana laughed, giving you a light kiss.
"Because. Superman is in love, and love is the strongest power of all." You blushed, punching him lightly in the arm;
"Such a dork, Dana." You said to him with a smirk.
He stood up, you attached to him like a koala; and he held you tightly as you both descended down the stairs. He placed you on the kitchen counter, then walked to the fridge to grab the milk. He stood in front of you, drinking the milk straight of the carton; which he knew you hated. You raised an eyebrow, and crossed your arms.
“You’re so lucky I love you, Dana.” You said, cracking a small smile. He put the carton down, and pulled the back of your knee up and put the other on your back.
"I know. You cant resist me." He smirked.
It was peaceful, sunshine peering in through your lilac coloured curtains, the birds chirping outside. Except for the loud snoring coming from the man beside you. You rub the sleep out of your eyes, and stretch over to clasp his nose with two fingers. He shudders, opening his dark eyes to glare at you. You move your fingers away, giggling as you curl close to him.
"Good morning, David…" You mumble into his chest, afterwards leaving a trail of kisses up to his neck. You begin to nuzzle him, and you can feel your eyes closing again.
"I thought we were waking up." He whispered into your ear before carrying you to the living room. You were placed on David’s lap, his one arm around you, and the other playing with the remote. “Fuck!” He said, hitting the remote against the coffee table. You giggled, wrapping your arms around him and pressing your head to his chest. His heartbeat was slow, but soothing. Some nights, that’s what put you to sleep. You smiled slightly before falling asleep again, your last sight being the Spiderman logo on the TV.
All the batman cartoons always played on Saturday mornings, and unfortunately for you, there was a TV at the foot of your bed. Gabe had the remote on his side, like usual, and when you awoke, he was struggling to find it.
"Where’s the remote!? The Dark Knight is on and I’m missing it!" He screeched, patting down the bed sheets and covers frantically. You rubbed your eyes and rolled over, feeling a cold object beside you. It was the remote. You tapped his shoulder and held out the remote for him.
A huge smiled appeared on his face when he saw you, and in an instant, you were on his lap. Batman, the brave and the bold was on, and Gabe’s head was on your shoulder. He was focused on the TV, and you were happy he was enjoying himself. But, you didn’t really like Batman all that much. So, you positioned yourself to where your head was in his lap, and he was leaning back against the head board. You fell asleep in a matter of seconds. ”You fell asleep again..“ Gabe said quietly, returning his gaze from you to the TV with a small smile.
Will normally woke up early, but today was the first day off that he had in two months. And when he got the time to sleep, he slept all day. So, when you woke up to his light breathing, you smiled. He looked so peaceful, so happy. You giggled noticing that he wasn’t wearing any clothes due to the heat, and was only covered by the blanket you both shared. You pushed it over to him, and adjusted his pillow; before creeping out of the room. You made yourself a cup of tea and sat down in his chair adjacent from the TV. Doctor Who was on, which you didn’t like, but you wanted to stay comfortable.
After the episode was over, you put your empty cup in the sink, and when you trailed back, you saw Will coming down the stairs, wrapped inside in a blanket cocoon.
"Baby?" He asked quietly, shuffling over to where you had been standing. He kissed your forehead, mumbling; “I woke up and you weren’t there.” You laughed, leading him over to the couch. After three more episodes of Doctor Who, Will had fallen asleep with his head in your lap.